Posted by: Jeff Lester on April 14, 2007
…even after I said I wouldn’t. What follows are the notes I tapped out while working, unedited except for spelling and clarification, of my first six hours at the shop. Might be interesting for some of you who wonder what our store’s like and who shops there, even though this is 100% pure anecdote and things may well be utterly different the other six days of the week. Wherever possible, I’ve tried to keep everyone anonymous so that subscribers, regular shoppers and lonely guys buying porn can retain their privacy.
11:24 a.m.: Okay. Store is open, music is playing (Elastica’s first album, which is directly attributable to reading Mr. Gillen’s endpapers in Phonogram), two people are in the store currently. Arune called hoping to get in touch with Graeme, and UPS just dropped off Diamond’s blackline, which means work on a new newsletter has to start soon.
First purchase of the day? Somebody buying a copy of Small Favors, Ho Che Anderson’s Eros comic (Temple Duncan or something like that), and the third issue of Conan and the Midnight God. It’d be easier to make fun of such a purchase if I didn’t actually like Small Favors and up until recently read Conan.
Second purchase of the day? A copy of Civil War: The Initiative and Wolverine, from a guy who was looking for the latest issue of the Transformers movie comic. Nice guy, too. Seemed very happy that we had still had the first printing of The Initiative.
I’ve read the latest 52, and All-Star Superman #7. I think I’ve missed the last page importance of All-Star Superman, though. So the Sbarro pizza chain is a weird genetic offshoot of Bizarro? I guess it kinda makes sense….
11:35: Wow. That Elastica album is SHORT. There’s a guy looking through the DC Showcase volumes, with the tag from his shirt sticking out about three inches. It looks like a black polyester transmitter jutting out of his neck. Two guys walking around the store, talking to each other in, I dunno, Italian or Portuguese, have just been joined by three other friends. As one, the group of five loudly descend on the porn rack. It’s going to be one of those days, it looks like.
11:40 a.m. : Caller asking when X-23 is coming out. After that, there’s a pause and then he asks what every retailer loves to hear: “Hey, what about the next issue of that Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine? Is that ever gonna come out?”
11:45 a.m.: The five guys leave with compliments for the store in their halting English. Turns out they’re Brazilian musicians traveling and one guy really wants this Giger hardcover that we have, but is worried it weighs too much to travel with. Says they’ll try to come back.
11:50 a.m.: Two more Brazilian guys, unrelated to the first group, remarkably enough. One wants to see the Walking Dead books. The other is looking for Dabel Brothers books because his friend did the art on one of the issues.
Another call (busy phone morning) from a guy wanting old Milestone issues. We’ve got four issues of Static Shock in our starter sets for cheap, recommend he come down and browse our other sets–the Milestone stuff seems to appear and disappear from that section reuglarly.
11:58 a.m.: The first Brazilian (the Walking Dead guy) asks about Bone, and wow do I wish I had one of those big Bone-In-One volumes to show him. Instead, Point him to the color version adn also show him the first two issues of the Shazam mini, which amuses and delights him.
12:05 p.m.: The two Brazilians leave, one buying that Dabel Brothers book and the 300: The Art Of book which he tells me is actually really hard to find. His friend gets that second volume of Walking Dead and also Tiny Tyrant. The first guy asks me when the next volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is due out. I swear to god, one day the riddle of the sphinx is going to be posed to me, and it’s going to be “Hey, did the second issue of Daredevil: Target ever come out?”
12:10: One dude with a khaki cap browsed for a few minutes, left, now a bespectacled guy with an Ideo messenger bag is browsing the Vertigo comics section. At this rate, between the whole customers and describing-the-customers thing, I’ll never get a chance to read any comics, will I?
12: 15: Did I mention I’m listening to The Good, The Bad & The Queen now?
12:18: Perusing the blackline and, yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed to post anything I’m seeing. I will say that I yelped aloud at a certain Omnibus announcement.
12:24 p. m.: Joe Ideo is gone, having purchased several back issues of NewUniversal, the latest Fell, Buffy #2, All-Star Superman #7, and the latest issue of Optic Nerve. I hesitate to call him a prototypical CE customer but he skews pretty close, dontcha think?
12:38 p.m.: First sub of the day just left with a handful of great stuff. Second sub showed up 45 seconds after and is still browsing the store. Mentions that the Wilco song playing sounds like it’s going to break into the Batman theme at any second. Funny and also, if I listen carefully, kinda true.
12:43 p.m.: There’s also a manga announcement in the new Blackline I’m pretty damn happy about. And a cool webcomic collection from Dark Horse, too?
12:45 p.m.: Danny (the second subber) is gone so store’s empty now. Wonder how long that’ll last.
12:46 p.m.: Answer: approximately 90 seconds.
12:48 p.m. : And now the store’s empty again. So it goes.
1:18 p.m.: First woman to set foot in the store today. Shows up with her boyfriend. They are both dressed entirely in black. Right behind her a trio of kids, all boys between the ages of what looks like 13 and 16, the oldest of which buys a Batman shirt.
1:23 p.m .: Wilco’s done. Just put on Compounds + Elements: An Introduction to All Saints Records. I’ve read (in reverse order) Fell, Blade, New Avengers, Uncanny X-Men. I could use some lunch–less for the food and more for the desire to get my ass out of the store for a few minutes. (This is why people who work retail, smoke.)
1:32 p.m.: The couple leaves, having bought two issues of Fell, two issues of Wormwood, and two issues of 30 Days of Night. Ben Templesmith fans would be what I’m thinking.
Forty seconds after them, a long haired kid with green streaks buys Iron Man #15, Nightwing #131 and that latest issue of the Scarface mini. Huh.
1:36 p.m.: The fourth sub’s out the door and, yeah, forgot to mention subscriber number three, sorry. After buying a handful of Vertigo titles and the latest Optic Nerve. See? Optic Nerve. Big, big seller for us. Asks if the second Rocketo trade has come out yet. (Uh, no?)
1:45 p.m.: Current store count: subber number five, a pair of women, and a tall guy with a camo ruck, a Cure haircut, a flannel shirt and an angular sunburned face. Oh, and a trucker cap. The tall guy has enough interesting quirks to his appearance for five people.
1:47 p.m.: Trucker cap leaves empty-handed, but very pleasant. One of the women asks about back issues of Anders Nilssen’s Big Questions, and I can’t help her–we’ve just got two of his trades. I give her an APE bookmark and suggest she look there, but she says she’s from out of town. She gives the bookmark to her friend, who says she’ll go and look for the books if her friend makes a list of what to look for. Awww. That’s a friend for you. On the way out the door, the woman who says she’ll go to APE says to her friend, “Yeah, [guy’s name] is having Art Spiegelman do all this stuff?” Which suggest she’s probably better-connected to finding those issues of Big Questions then she either realizes or lets on.
1:51 p.m.: Mail call! And nothing for me. Although the excitement of opening and setting out the free screening tickets for Severance is mine and mine alone.
1:57 pm.: GRAEME!! stops by for a few as he’s getting ready to head out of town for the weekend with Kate. I finally loan him my copy of Empowered. He essentially has stopped by to tell me that he’s very excited about next week’s signing, which is great becuase I am too, but he’s excited in that “not puking blood” overreacting kind of way and I am. (He also already knew about the Omnibus, damn it.)
3:03 p.m.: And suddenly it’s over an hour later. Graeme leaves, along with sub no. 5. A few weeks ago, I’d talked briefly over the phone to an ex-retailer in the U.K. who was coming over here to shop for silver age books. At the time, I turned him on to Al’s and a few other places, but he and his friend stop by today anyway, just to make sure we don’t have anything.
We don’t, but nevertheless he buys a Batman year one t-shirt (second one of the day, weirdly enough) and shoots the breeze while waiting for his cab to show up and shuttle him out to the avenues.
While he’s here, more people show up including a semi-regular who picked up the first two issues of Joss’s Buffy last week and so I recommended Runaways #1 to her–she also buys Y: The Last Man from us so I figured it’d be a pretty good fit–and so she’s back to start in on our Runaways back issues. Then there’s the couple from San Jose–she ends up buying Optic Nerve and Love & Rockets, he buys fifty gajillion back issues, including a huge chunk of Daredevil back issues by Bendis and Maleev. She makes a joke about staying in bed all weekend together and reading comics. Awwww.
Another subscriber, in and out in under ten minutes. A very quiet older gentleman steps up to the register with a great handful of books–both Don Rosa Scrooge books, volumes 1 and 2 of the Superman Chronicles, It Rhymes with Lust and the girly art cartoons of an artist I always think is Dan DeCarlo but isn’t (or maybe it is). [Ed.: I’m 90% sure it’s The Glamor Girls of Don Flowers.]
I really should get lunch soon.
3:15 p.m.: A teen girl suddenly appears in the doorway with wide eyes. “Do you have Naruto?” Her family trails in a few seconds later; they’re traveling from Omaha to (I think?) Washington. The mom tells me, “My daughter looked you up on Google when she found out we were coming here, so… it works!” The daughter buys two volumes of Naruto while the family walks around the store, caught somewhere between awe and amusement that such a thing exists. Or maybe they’re just burnt out by their time on the road. The mom and (I assume) the dad look through a few volumes of Tintin, having heard from someone else that they’re reallly good, but they don’t buy anything and then they’re gone.
3:30 p.m.: A tall guy in running shorts with a black IPod strapped to his arm, comes in and asks if the latest issue of Buffy is out and seems really excited about it. “Really? Issue #2? It’s out? When?” He’s just started jogging but assures me he’ll be back.
So, yeah, I’m starting to see what Hibbs is talking about when he says that this Whedon Buffy stuff could have legs for us.
3:40 p.m.: My friend Theresa calls on my cell to tell me her sister Jean just had a baby. Of course, this being the real world, the store phone rings at the same time and it’s the guy from the Bay Guardian calling to remind us about the deadline for the ad we’re placing promoting the signing. I’m really glad he called because Edi sent the ad to him yesterday. After a few seconds of him checking his inbox, then looking at the attachment to see if it’s formatted correctly, we’re good to go but it ends up cutting my time with Theresa short.
3:50 p.m.: The jogger is back, true to his word. Asks about Runaways, but doesn’t pick it up. One of the two subbers who buys 2000 A.D. drops by for his weekly fix and, to my delight, picks up The Professor’s Daughter just “because it looks good. ”
Oh, and after forty-five minutes of browsing, the eccentric lurker of the day (dressed in all black, bearing luggage, wearing galoshes) leaves. He asks several questions ranging from the very knowledgeable (“Do you have any works by Tardi?”) to the, uh, less than knowledgeable (“Image? That’s Marvel, right?” which sounds kinda crazy but since he follows this up with asking if Vertigo is DC, it actually makes a weird kinda sense.)
Now, if this other subber buys his books and heads out before someone else comes in, I can grab “lunch.” I probably shoulda booted him or galoshes guy for a few minutes but I actually brought food with me today so I’m not dying or anything.
3:57 p.m.: Subber leaves and of course a guy comes in at the same time. I’ll give him two minutes and hit lunch.
Also, forty-five seconds after the last subber leaves, I realize I went to college with the guy. Forty-five seconds after that, I realize he’s left behind one of the books he bought. Shit.
I call the number we have on file for him in the hopes that it’ll be his cell phone but it’s an old answering machine where “The Girl From Ipanema” is playing on the background through a rainstorm as funnelled through a paper towel roll. (Good ol’ answering machines.) I leave a message, write out a note explaining what’s happened, and put the book back in his slot.
During all this drama, three more people have come in: a dude who does a lap around the store and heads out, and a couple browsing the crime section. Another subber comes in, fills out the form, shoots the shit. Topics range from The Boys to The Secret Six (he didn’t know about the crossover with Birds of Prey so I hunt that up) to Y: The Last Man. Then he goes and checks the racks. When he asks what I’m reading and what’s good, I go and hunt up a copy of The Professor’s Daughter which he looks through and nods.
4:22 p.m.: The Brazilian musician who wanted the Geiger book is back to browse. Someone else comes in with a bottle of orange sports drink, gets a call on his cell phone and leaves. It’s just five people quietly browsing comics, the radio playing old UB40 and my stomach, gurgling merrily. I can handle missing lunch, but I can’t handle old UB40. I get up and put on the soundtrack to One From the Heart.
4:33 p.m.: Maybe it’s the hunger talking, but this Dr. 13 story by Azzarello and Chiang in the latest Tales of the Unexpected is kinda brilliant and really, really amusingly savage about the current state of DC affairs. And just unbelievably gorgeous art by Cliff Chiang. I pray to god this sucker gets collected in a trade because I haven’t been buying the issues.
4:40 p.m.: A German (or maybe Austrian?) guy comes in asking what’s “good.” His benchmark, when asked? “Oh, I liked Spawn five or six years ago.” I point him to Walking Dead and cross my fingers.
4:43 p.m.: So the guy I pointed to Walking Dead after he said he likes Spawn? Comes to the front with….Kafka, that biography with art by Crumb. Go figure. The guy tells me a little bit about the Yerba Buena Crumb show which I’ve entirely forgotten about until he mentions it. Not a big show, according to the guy. “Just one room, and not even any Fritz The Cat.” Hmmm.
5:00 p.m.: And suddenly everyone leaves at once: the two subbers, the couple who was browsing the crime section (French), a bunch of other guys. Somebody shows up to pass out cards for APE related showings and it turns out it’s Dave Crosland! Holy crap!
And that’s where I had to stop because (a) Rob Bennett showed up to see how I was doing and brought Guinness; (b) I had to go get something to eat, finally; and (c) it got even busier from there on out. Although the quality of my anecdotes would have improved because Ian Brill, James Masente, Dave Robson (also bringing beer, bless him) and Peter Wong all showed up and spent time hanging out and shooting the shit, I just didn’t have time to even take notes. And Lord knows how I’m gonna write reviews this week since I read so little and during so much business…
But, anyway, there’s your peek behind the curtain. Surprising, or no?